Here’s the thing about The Borg (and if you’re not a Star Trek fan or a sci-fi geek and you don’t get the reference, here’s a link to a nice little précis) which I have lately been pondering on – they are a pretty decent parallel for Liberal White Logic.
Liberal White Logic has many sects and many schisms within those many sects – in the secular variety there is Conservative Liberal White Logic (sometimes self-referred to as ‘compassionate Conservatism‘); there is ‘Liberal’ Liberal White Logic; there is Feminist Liberal White Logic; there is Social Justice Liberal White Logic. You get it in religion too – the Everything-Should-be-Nice-for-Everyone-Have-Cake-and-a-cup-of-Tea-Anglican-Liberal-White-Logic is the one I am most familiar with of course (and I’m really am going to have to find a shorter name for that).
Whatever the superficial differences, certain key traits mark out Liberal White Logic in all it’s guises (and vices):
- Magical Intent
- Colour Blindness
- They are bloody everywhere
The Borg had all of these things (and I realise that with at least one of the above points I am likely to be considered stretching it a bit but hey, it’s my blog and I’ll stretch the point if I want to). You see the thing is, in the context of Star Trek the fictional science fiction programme, the viewer looking from the outside in has no problem in distinguishing The Borg as the ‘bad guy’, even if you feel a degree of pity for the individual drones whom you know are often there against their will.
The Borg do not merely invade other worlds – they eat them up and absorb that world in to itself until there is nothing left of the world that you might recognise of it. The Borg absorbs, assimilates, those who were once individuals until there is nothing of the individual left and there is only the collective Borg. The Borg want everything because The Borg assumes all things belong to it – because The Borg seek ‘perfection’ (and in some implicit way must therefore be perfect).
The viewer sees this and knows that it is wrong. The viewer has no problem recognising this as evil.
In a feminist context, let’s consider Eve Ensler for a moment – and purely for the purposes of this post, cast her in the role of the Borg Queen. No doubt some might consider this a bit harsh, but it seems a reasonable way to illustrate the point, particularly in the light of the whole appalling ‘Congo Stigmata’ thing. (For a whole host of other reasons why Eve Ensler is such a good example of the worst kind of Liberal White Logic, I would suggest you read Lauren Chief Elk, Mikki Kendall and Prison Culture to get to grips with what I am referring to. In fact, read those first because these are the voices of the women most directly harmed by all this).
Ensler is quite possibly the pinnacle of the worst that our collective Liberal White Logic ends up producing, although she is certainly not unique:
Like many ‘charitable’ white people, Ensler has (or appears to have) good motives: she wants an end to violence against women in the Congo, and has spent time with these women. She seems to have concern for their welfare. Her intent seems good; and because her intent is good, this surely means that she is beyond reproach or incapable of anything that might be deemed colonial or racist?
Have you read those articles yet? If you have, can you see the problem? Can you see the appropriation, the centring of herself, the consumption of these women’s lives for her own benefit?
I don’t doubt for a moment that Ensler would tell you that she doesn’t judge someone by their skin colour and would certainly tell you she is not racist. But when she is appropriating and consuming Native women’s struggles, the pain and horror of the women of the Congo – do you think she is recognising their individual and communal histories and cultures? Do you think she is respecting these when she takes it upon herself to ‘speak’ for them? Do you think a white saviour is not racist?
Okay, I will admit that I am not convinced that Ensler suffers from self-delusion: call me a cynic but given how much and how many have questioned her methods, her tactics, her language, her approach and her overall behaviour (and have done so directly), I am not convinced that Ensler is at all naive about what she does.
But if she really is that naive, if she really does not understand the impact her actions have upon the women who must deal with these things – the she fools herself to a massive degree, and in order to continue to do so has to shut out not just the voices of those who seek to question her, but her own voice too.
Assumption & Appropriation:
These two really do go together – as I have already touched on, our White Liberal Logic is as imbued with colonial assumptions of superiority as the right wing demagogues we more normally fool ourselves in to associating with such thinking. The only difference is, we think we have to ‘save’ People of Colour, directed by the narrative that People of Colour are too starved, war-torn or poor to save themselves.
It is barely a step from that to the appropriation of the cultures (honestly do you, or does someone you know, have a ‘dream catcher’ in their home?), and the consumption of their heritage and their lives.
(photo from The Guardian).
Honestly, if we – if Eve Ensler – were fully recognising the humanity of People of Colour, would this be happening?
They’re Bloody Everywhere:
One Billion Rising is almost upon us, again. There really will be millions (though maybe not a billion) ‘dancing for justice’. Millions who have not questioned Ensler’s organisations Liberal White Logic – millions who think that getting up and dancing is what justice will look like for the indigenous women whose own day of vigil and remembrance for the missing has been appropriated by ‘V-Day’. Millions who have perhaps bought into Ensler’s assertion that her own cancer was the result of Congolese women ‘entering her’, who have not questioned her desire to watch a Congolese woman’s surgery and then talk about that anonymous woman in terms of ‘holes’.
But this is the thinking I was spoon fed and weaned on, like every other white western woman: this seemingly well meaning, liberal ‘hippy’ thinking which is as guilty of the colonial, oppressive, self-centring racism that those right wing bogeymen of old are.
We white liberals look at them, and pat ourselves on the back for not being them.
But we are. And we are everywhere. We are the Borg – resistance is futile and you will be assimilated.
Or maybe not. Maybe we will question ourselves more closely – maybe we will take a long hard look at what we’ve believed without question before, maybe we will stop thinking it is always about us and step back. And listen. And hear. And recognise – and learn.